Making mentors: OC Women in Trades and Willowstone Academy students learn and build together

By College Relations | March 6, 2020

OC Women in Trades and Willowstone Academy student at the maker event
OC Women in Trades and Willowstone Academy students at the maker event

Sometimes a finished carpentry project turns out to be far more than the sum of its parts, when the tools, techniques and materials combine to create something unforgettable and transformative.

The same goes for educational experiences, as demonstrated by a recent event that brought together students from Willowstone Academy and Okanagan College’s Women in Trades Training (WITT) program, with support from the Industry Training Authority (ITA).

On Thursday, March 5 a class of WITT students arrived in the early hours of the morning to prep for a unique “maker” event that would see them step into the shoes of teacher and mentor.

What followed was also an unforgettable day during which WITT students and staff supported Middle Years students and their teachers in the construction of three maker projects specific to the sustainability of our local environment.

Notes WITT Program Administrator Nancy Darling, in designing the projects, the partners knew they wanted to meet four key goals or learning outcomes.

“First off, we wanted to provide an introduction to some real-world design challenges that impact our community, while encouraging students to come up with some innovative solutions to the challenges using Design Thinking,” explains Darling. “After that, the learning got more hands-on, as our students and staff gave them a bit of an introduction to tools and materials, and then supported in the construction of the prototypes the Middle Years students designed from scratch.”

“From start to finish, this was such a valuable mentorship opportunity for our students. It gave them a chance to apply what they know, to transition from learner to teacher for a day, which is always a chance to build confidence and demonstrate what they know and can do.”

The event builds on a long history of the WITT program making an impact in the community, from constructing picnic tables for schools and parks to custom build projects for Arion Therapeutic Farm and a host of other non-profits in the community.

OC Women in Trades and Willowstone Academy students at the maker event

All told, 40 students had a chance to participate during the Maker Day at Willowstone Academy.

“Design thinking came to life for our students through our collaboration with Women in Trades of Okanagan College,” remarked Chief Learning Officer, Karine Veldhoen.  “It becomes real when students start with ideation, move to technical drawings and prototyping, and finish with a high-quality product. Thanks to the Industry Training Authority for this experience.”

“This Maker Day is a perfect example of educational institutions coming together to highlight the value of hands-on trades education and training, the diversity of career paths in the trades and what an important role trades people play in our community, as learners, teachers, builders and doers. Congratulations to all the students and educators who made this day possible,” says Lisa Langevin, Director of Women in Trades, ITA.

This event isn’t the first time that the WITT program has put their skills to work to inspire youth to test drive a trade early on in their education. Beginning in 2018, and again in 2019, the WITT program and ITA collaborated on a go-kart building camp geared toward girls aged 9-12. Last year also saw the addition of a carpentry-focused camp for the same age range.

Last summer, the WITT program celebrated a remarkable milestone – the first 1,000 students through the program since it launched in 2009. It shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, as demand for skilled trades professionals remains strong in the region, across the province and beyond according to recent labour market data.

More information about the WITT program is available at

For more information about Willowstone Academy (daycare, preschool, K – gr. 9), please visit  

In lead up to International Women’s Day on Sunday, Okanagan College will be recognizing and celebrating the remarkable achievements and contributions to the region made by OC students, employees, retirees, alumni, donors, industry and community partners in a variety of ways. Follow along on social media on Sunday and on Follow along for content from Okanagan College, the Industry Training Authority and many others using the hashtags #IWD2020 and #EachforEqual.


A Flickr photo gallery from the event can be viewed here.

Tags: Women in Trades Training, Trades, Kelowna



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